2009 was the end of my three year B.A. course at Bangor University. As 2019 marked the ten-year anniversary of my graduation, I wanted to do a ‘trip down memory lane’ holiday to see my old haunts and to revisit the place I’d been so happy; made some of the best friends I’ve ever had; and learnt so much – both academically and personally. And seeing in the new year, and decade, surrounded by the mountains and the sea was just what the doctor ordered.
Chirk Castle, 26 December 2019
To break up my drive down, I decided to stop off and look around Chirk Castle. I’m a big fan of country houses, castles, gardens, and walks, and the National Trust does a fantastic job at keeping history alive and the places in their care that makes a trip to any of their sites a real treat.
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t play ball and was rainy and miserable. Even more unfortunately, I found out that I’d forgotten my coat! So I decided to focus on looking around the castle rather than exploring the gardens or the walks that circulate or lead from the castle.
Chirk Castle had a Christmas theme of ‘Land of Make Believe’ and was fantastic. A couple of weeks earlier I’d been to Newstead Abbey, who had also had a fairy tale theme for their Christmas decorations, and was a big fan of theirs too. The one thing that Chirk Castle had over Newstead Abbey though was …
Decoration goals! Who doesn’t want a Welsh Dragon peeking from around their Christmas tree?! I hadn’t decorated my house this Christmas because I was hardly going to be at home, but Christmas 2020 is going to be a carbon copy of this tree (maybe).
The dungeon was my favourite room. There’s a sign there warning about the uneven stairs and now has electric lighting. But imagining how it would have been 600-700 years ago for people being shoved roughly down those stairs and shut in in what would have been total darkness, was unsettling.
I wasn’t prepared for the wave of emotion as I drove into the city, parked up, and made my way to the pier as the first stop. The weather was cool, but clear, so I was able to see Snowdonia clearly from the pier. Walking along the pier, I was confronted with vivid memories and watched the ghosts of our younger selves walk and chat, completely carefree, along the boards of the pier. Back then our destination was always the Tea Rooms at the end of the pier. Best. Scones. In. The. World. Nope, no arguments. There were. Hands down. Unfortunately, the end of the pier is now blocked off for renovation so no exceptional scone for me today.
My feet just knew which way to go, moving confidently through the streets I’d tread so often before. From the pier I walked up to and past ‘stonehenge’ to the old History house.
Obviously not Stonehenge. Just a stone circle in a field. But we were a group of history nerds.
In our first year, the History department was in its own little house down a side street from the main university building and we loved it in there. It’s now the social sciences building. My first sight of the main university building made me smile. Still there and still going strong.
Looking around the town, I was struck with how much, but also how little, had changed. I did some shopping (got a coat!), walked around, enjoyed the cool but clear weather, and tried not to look like a berk with a Cheshire cat grin on my face.
Whilst visiting the city where I’d spent so many happy years was the best feeling, it also reinforced that I’m not ready to leave the larger city yet.
Welsh Mountain Zoo
This is a really nice little zoo actually and an interesting layout. Whilst I felt that some of the enclosures were a bit small, they weren’t tiny. You drive in and the car park is in the middle of the zoo with enclosures on either side. The zoo is set on a hill and had spectacular panoramic views.
The first thing I noticed when I got out of the car was that the penguins were being right noisy little buggers.
The zoo was a nice walk around and relatively quiet people-wise. Ordinarily I would go to talks or viewings, but decided against it on this occasion. I also saw alligators for the first time, which was fantastic. And a bit unnerving. I know they couldn’t have gotten out, but it still felt a bit close for comfort. The sign on the door did make me laugh though – “Alligator Beach. Come on in.”
The last place I visited was Beaumaris. Just across the bridge onto Anglesey, Beaumaris is a beautiful little town and somewhere we went a few times whilst students.
Today I parked up in front of the Straits. It was windy and cold, but clear skies. The photo on the top of my front page to this site is of that day. My first stop was the Castle.
Beaumaris Castle is a tragedy. It’s set in some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK, with phenomenal views, and beautiful surroundings. Yet the castle was never finished as Edward I ran out of money and had his attention diverted towards Scotland at the time. The fact that it was never finished shouldn’t detract from its beauty and potential. I love walking around a castle and imagining it full of life and laughter. Beaumaris is the perfect canvas to let your imagination run wild.
Perfect holiday and perfect end to the year and decade. It has taught me that I need to go back much more regularly and take advantage of the scenery, views, culture, friendliness, and the massive variety of things to do and see.